.hack//DIVERGENCE Main

One Voice Among the Many - Armina finds her Way
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Author:  Armina [ Sun Nov 19, 2006 9:33 pm ]
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She was tired. Drained. Weary. The oversized rooms with their eerie glowing markings & even more eerie background music gnawed t her from the inside. Armina had always been sensitive to the sights & sounds around her... and this monotony was too much. A room with skeletons hanging from the ceiling still had her nerves on edge. She had not been able to shke the sight. It did not help that with each new room she fretted more & more for the companions she had left behind. Where they still alive? Would she find them? How long had she been down here? Would she ever get out?

Armina had nearly run out of Fortune wires two floors back, keeping the last one now just in case. She was five levels underground and severely fighting her minor claustrophobia despite the vast size of each room. The Battle Maiden needed daylight. Even fake daylight -the only kind she was likely to get in the World. Even the daylight of eternal dusk that this field offered.

With a whimper Armina jogged into the room that just opened up. What she saw made her tilt her head in confusion & stare at the same time. A huge statue floated surrounded by swirling golden rings over a circular opening that stretched above and below the room's ceiling & floor. Now that Armina thought about it, the ceiling was only a little over average height for a room, rather than the huge vaulted ceilings of the other rooms the dungeon had to offer. Something about it reminded Armina of one of her carafe dishes back home. Looking at the base she finally noticed the blue treasure chest on a raised crescent of mosaic tiles in front of the statue. Suddenly the LongArm was very glad she had saved that last Fortune Wire. This has to be the end room... the Treasure Room...

On faltering steps she reached the chest & fumbled it open with her last Fortune Wire. Armina stared blankly at the three treasures inside, wondering what she would do with the two Rainbow Cards other than sell them. Sure are pretty though...

The LongArm's sigh of relief was cut short & turned into a strangled scream as the glowing rings disappeared & the statue fell with a thundering crash along the walls of its chamber to whatever bottom Armina could not see below. She stood there shaking like a leaf until she could lessen the width of her blue eyes. Get a grip on yourself 'Mina! Get a grip & get out of here!

Grasping her spear like a lifeline she jogged with happier step from the room than she had upon entering. Surely she would be outside soon.

Author:  Armina [ Sun Nov 19, 2006 9:54 pm ]
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Only she could not seem to find the exit. Armina had to admit she was lost. Her map was little help to her... only when she was close to the stairs did they show up on the map. All the rooms were starting to look the same, and half probably were.

At least all the gates had been activated. Or at least Armina at first thought that was a good thing. After hours -or days; she really had no sense of how long she had been down here- the LongArm found herself in a different room, with a slightly squishy pink floor underfoot. With a whoop of excitement she runs out of the dungeon with renewed energy into the evening sunshine of the out doors.

Blue eyes swimming with relief Armina smiles at the floating specks of light & the multihued carpet beneath her feet. I'm out! I'm out!! I'm out!!!

It was a good thing she was alone in the field or Armina would have accidentally singed anyone nearby with her mental exhuberance.

Setting her spear into the ground she spread her arms out & spun & spun & spun until she could no longer stand with dizziness & fell with giddy laughter to the flower strewn ground where she rolled deliriously.

At long last she sat bolt upright, her eyes wide in alarm. "My friends!"

Tying Gingi's cloth over her ears, Armina summoned the gate that would take her back to Dun Lorieg. Let them be safe! Let them be safe.

Author:  Armina [ Sun Nov 19, 2006 11:26 pm ]
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Theta Server: Root Town, Dun Lorieg

The sun shone warm and bright over Dun Lorieg. Armina closed her eyes & breathed deeply, reveling in the feel of daytime sun on her face. Too long in dusk & dungeon.

She jogged down the wooden plank bridges. The sound of her boots upon the familiar paths made her smile. Thankfully not many were out and about right now. The LongArm stopped at the item shop to sell & replenish her stocks.

"You're selling all of these?" The merchant asked with raised brow.

"Uh-huh." Armina nodded, russet tresses bobbing around Gingitsune's bandana. She fingered the tarot cards she was keeping Maybe I can find others & make a deck -at least of the key cards. The major arcana. With the money she got from the sale the LongArm stocked up on healing potions, speed charms, non-wood spells, antidotes, fortune's wires , fairy orbs, &... "What's a Sprite Ocarina?"

The man gave her an odd look. He could see her level and had to shake his head that she did not know. "A sprite ocarina lets you gate back to the root town from a dungeon."

"Really?!? Awesome! I'll take a bunch of those too, please!" Shaking his head in wonder the shopkeeper filled her order.

"Don't forget to save." "Thanks! I will!" If I can... The LongArm giddily replied. Armina waved as she bounced away. Now to find my friends! Kurai? Rayo? Gingi? Nall? Nighthand?... Ramza?... Hijinx?.... Asgard?... Tokki?.... Ruri?.... Vera?..... Kayin?...... Argilus?..... Nayru????... With each name mentally called with no response Armina's heart sank. Maybe they're just not here... Jogging faster she circled around back of the grunty farm. Finding the secret entrance the battle maiden slipped inside. She looked around. No signs of struggle... that's good. But no signs of her companions either. Maybe they went back to Mac Anu...?

On that thought Armina decided she might as well find something to eat from the stores & have a decent rest. She would travel to Mac Anu in the morning. Tonight she would rest with heavy heart & hope.

Author:  Armina [ Mon Nov 20, 2006 12:31 am ]
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Armina rose refreshed and munched on an apple to break her fast. As naturally as she could manage the LongArm left the hideout. She jogged in relative silence across the bridges. A stray thought assailed her lightly shielded mind. Hey, isn't that... "Kren, doesn't that LongArm look like the description of one of those hackers?" Armina shifted her blue eyes to see a pair of Crimson Guards coming out of Elf's Haven.

She tried to remain calm, not bolting for the gate. From their thoughts she knew it was she they were talking about. A few other players arrived in town and Armina jogged around them on the far side from the Crimson Guard. She has to pass them to reach the gate & relative safety.

"Sure does, but that one was claimed killed. By one of Kendara's group, after the WaveMistress was taken down." "Thelonus' Kendara?" Shadow of a nod. "I wouldn't want to piss her off. Yeah. I remember that now." Armina could feel his eyes & thoughts upon her. "hmm... must have the same base." "Yeah. Surprising how close to a base that one was. Hackers tend to go for more flashy looks." "Yeah."

The first one's thoughts continued as he watched Armina. Wish I could remember the name... sure is a cute base though. Armina blushed a little as she breathed a sigh of relief that she had reached the Chaos Gate. So I'm dead?

"We should question her anyway." Their voices carried. "Hey, you! Stop!"

Terrified, Armina barely remained calm on the outside as she picked the first combination that came to her mind.

Beautiful. Solitary. Melody.

She could hear & feel their breath beside her as the rings encircled her. Their words reached her even as she gated away. "Drat! Too slow!" And I didn't get to ask for her friend code...

Somehow she managed a frightened laugh through her terror.

Author:  Armina [ Mon Nov 20, 2006 3:44 pm ]
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Theta Server: Beautiful Solitary Melody

The glowing rings of the gate left her in a beautiful woodland area. Armina breathed carefully, letting all the fear & apprehension that she had been feeling her last moments in Dun Lorieg out from behind her calm facade. She stood there alone, shaking in the flickering sunlight as it filtered through the canopy of green overhead. Is that how it's going to be now? Always running? Always afraid? Why can't they see it's not our fault? I don't want to be stuck in a game! She started to cry softly to herself. I certainly don't want to die here...

That train of thought turned her silent tears into wracking sobs. She let them overwhelm her for while until her belly started to ache from it. When she calmed enough to think again her thoughts were a little more coherent. Where are my friends? At least some must be alive, if they're still looking for them! That thought at least made the LongArm feel a little better. She started to walk through the peaceful field. This is nice... I can see why Ryan would use this field as a retreat. After the adventures in Dun Lorieg, Armina had a feeling she would be using it often herself. If only for a place to feel safe & calm her nerves.

And the voices. I must learn to shield better or I'm a liability & a danger to my friends. Her friends. Where can they be? I was going to try Mac Anu today... but after those crimson guards... She shivered slightly in the warm sunlight as if a shadow passed over her, but it was only her fear & imagination. I'll try tomorrow. I still need to calm down from today. Especially if I will need to continue acting calm when I'm not.

Today, Armina walked softly beneath the trees. She sighed to herself, watching the surroundings. It was a lovely locale; exactly the kind of place Armina liked best. A quiet woodland with the song of hidden birds coming from somewhere in the high treetops, the sunlight filtering down -sometimes green, sometimes golden. In such a place it didn't take long for her to begin to calm. Soon she was going over in her mind everything she had watched or read about telepathy & theories of how to shield & use it properly.

Her head full of such thoughts Armina spent the day until she found a comfortable bed of moss & curled around her spear for a relaxing sleep in the flickering sunlight. She could test her theories in MacAnu on the morrow.

Author:  Armina [ Thu Nov 30, 2006 3:24 pm ]
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Theta Server: Root Town, Dun Lorieg

Armina paced rested & restless around the chaos gate. Every once in a while she looked at the gate as if choosing a field then threw her hand s out in consternation. A player warped in & with vibrance in her blue eyes the level 29 LongArm rushed over to him.

"Hey! Hi there! Can you tell me how to get back to MacAnu?" The player looked at her oddly, obviously taking in her level. Armina blushed. "I... uh, haven't been there for quite some time & forgot how. But I'm hoping to meet some friends there..." Her voice trailed off.

Shaking his head the HeavyAxe chuckled at her. "Yeah. I can see how one might forget after a while on the same server. Just switch back to Delta Server. MacAnu's the root town there, ya'know?"

With a happy laugh Armina threw her arms around him in a quick hug. "Thanks! I feel I've been here forever!" Hopping back, Armina waved at the flustered & blushing male before skipping into the Chaos Gate. As she toggled for Delta Server the HeavyAxe's thoughts wafted towards her as he waved and sauntered towards the Elf's Tavern. Now that'd be a right pleasant welcome, if I only was certain she was a she!

Armina could see the thoughtful shake of his head as the rings enveloped her. Wait...! Does that mean some people make characters not their own gender?!?

The HeavyBlade jumped, looking around for the source of the voice. It was the last thing Armina saw as she was transported away. Her hands went to her mouth as she realized she had "sent" her thoughts to the unsuspecting player. Later she would figure it was just before she left the Server that she caught the confused Yes...? of the HeavyAxe's answering thought.

Author:  Armina [ Mon Dec 18, 2006 7:50 pm ]
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DeltaServer: Root Town Mac Anu

She did not know what time it was but there did not seem to be many people in the Delta Server root town. Glancing at their character levels Armina saw that most of them were under level 1. As it should be... I think. Stray thoughts hit her and Armina tried to filter them, to push them back. Most of them were boring, dull. Concerns about learning the game or surviving a field. Thoughts about trying to make friends or the reasons why they started playing the game. She leaned against a building as casually as she could while trying to sort them all out. Good thing there's not many players here today.

Once she had the "voices" to a gentle thrum the LongArm shouldered her spear & faced the town. Humming softly to herself she jogged casually to the old hideout. Armina paused at a bridge, tilting her head & smiling at memories. Ramza with his dragon. Wasn't it Ramza? He was always great with the fire spells... Hijinx with her, well... Hijinx. I hope they're all okay...

Armina toggled the entrance & slipped inside. I forgot how small it was here compared to DunLorieg... I don't think the whole group of us would fit inside anymore... She did not let herself think of the chance of anyone's death as she checked out the empty hideout. It as too morbid a thought & she had to keep light.

Finding no telltale signs Armina sighed. I miss the notes Gingi used to leave for us... Disappointed she grabbed a box of crackers & stepped outside. Armina walked back to the nearest bridge & sat down, slipping her legs between the bars of the railing & letting her feet dangle over the waterway. Where could they be? I hope they're all right. Perhaps I'm only just missing them... or maybe they're on a field somewhere. She munched on the crackers as the thoughts started to repeat themselves again.

Opening her pouch to put the remainder of the crackers away Armina peeked at her items, a confused expression crossing her pixie face. "Now why didn't I sell these mushrooms & eggs?" She wondered aloud. A veteran player passing by arched a brow but paused to answer her. "You can't sell mushroom. They're special. You can't sell the special items."

The LongArm smiled gratefully. "But what are they for?" The WaveMistress gave Armina a strange look. "Grunnies."

"Oh! Thanks!" "You're Welcome." The player nodded her head once and went on her way.

Author:  Armina [ Tue Jan 02, 2007 9:16 pm ]
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For what seemed like a long time Armina traveled between the two root towns as she checked the hideouts for signs of her companions & worked on controlling her new "gift" - Desmith's telepathy hack. Sometimes she could almost swear there was signs of someone having been in the hideouts beside her... but she just could not tell.

At first, the only reason she went to a field was to dodge Crimson Guards. Or the pounding of voices in her head. Especially that time she had arrived in Dun Lorieg as a party of some kind seemed to be underway. From the myriad of thoughts she gathered there was a holiday event of some kind. After gathering her thoughts in Beautiful Solitary Melody she returned, prepared with greater shielding in place. After all -she had reasoned with herself- she could not practice control of her gift if she was always on her own.

It had worked. To an extent. Armina quickly discovered that it was fairly easy to shut out the voices of people's minds. What proved to be more difficult was finding ways to shut out some while picking up on others. Finding ways to filter the senseless dribble -that although could be amusing usually only led to giving Armina a headache- from the thoughts that perhaps could be quite useful -such as overhearing a Crimson Guard for either warnings or news of hackers- began to take up more & more of Armina's time in the root towns.

Theta Server: Root Town, Dun Lorieg

She did not spend all her time in the towns. One day Armina ran into the HeavyAxe that had helped her before. "Hey! Did you find your friends?" He asked her cheerfully.

Smiling that he had remembered her the LongArm jogged over. Only then did she pout with a mew of disappointment at his question. "No. I must have just missed them." Then she smiled brightly. "But I did make it to Mac Anu again, thanks to you!"

The HeavyAxe rubbed the back of his neck. "Aw, shucks, ma'am. The least I could do." Smiling he held out his hand. "I'm Ranger."

Armina grinned and took his hand. "Armina." Please don't let him know the name from some wanted poster somewhere. Please don't let him get hurt for treating me like a "normal" player.

But his open mind gave no indication of following such events & Ranger seemed clearly happy to meet her. "Nice to have your name, Armina."

He blinked & grinned as a female wavemaster gated in. "Whoop! He's here!" He waved the broad chested, elegant wavemistress over. "Deidre! Come meet Armina!"

((Will hopefully finish tonight.))

Author:  Armina [ Tue Jan 16, 2007 8:17 pm ]
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As the wavemistress smiled pleasantly & strolled over Armina's mind whirled. He? Did Ranger just call her a "he"? Despite her mental confusion the LongArm smiled warmly. As carefully as she had learned to be able Armina opened her mind to 'hear' them both. From the HeavyAxe she got the impression that this was his best friend, even outside the game, while from the magic user... Armina had to fight back a blush from the very male thoughts emanating from the graceful female form. Quickly she raised her shields again, to handle the introductions without distraction.

"Armina, is it?" At the WaveMistress' approving glance Armina could no longer fight off her blush & a slight pink rose to her cheeks.

Ranger laughed, slapping a companionable arm on his friend's back. "Aww. Don't pick on her too much Dei. This is the one I mentioned; the one who'd forgotten how to change servers."

That made the LongArm blush furiously. "I'd really only gone out with my friends since starting to play, so I was always on their tails for gating..." she explained sheepishly.

Deidre gave her a sympathetic look. "Got you into the game then power-leveled you without so much as letting you get used to the basics, did they?" With a graceful move 'she' hugged Armina, who -stunned- returned the hug automatically. Pulling back the WaveMistress held Armina at arms' length, once again studied the more 'cute' female but without the wolfish quality to it. "We see it all the time, don't we Ranger. When will players learn that the earliest levels should be left alone to learn how to play The World before being power-leveled?"

The HeavyAxe shrugged, his eyes crinkling with mirth as he leaned on his axe & winked at Armina. Clearly, he had heard this rhetorical question from his friend many, many times. The budding telepath did not even need her new 'gift' to see that. "But we've helped lots a' folks make up for the lack when on their own." Ranger said with a grin, his Western accent sometimes thicker than others. "What'd'ya think, Dei?"

Deidre curled an arm around Armina's shoulder's protectively. "Take her under our wing? Most certainly!" Turning her face she smiled down at the LongArm. "It's part of what really makes this game fun, you know."

Armina 'listened' carefully on as tight a band as she could manage. Both of their public minds where open to her and -except fot the oddness of Deidre really being a male- gave her no reason to doubt their sincerity. She smiled honestly at them, large blue eyes both hopeful & full of the loneliness she had been feeling. "I didn't." Then she grinned again. "Know, I mean."

Ranger laughed, slapping a hand against his thigh. "All right, pretty gal. What'd'ya need to learn?" The WaveMistress shot his friend a laughing glance. "Maybe it'd be easier for her to tell us what she does know." "Sure! What's it you know, 'mina?"

At the nickname Armina became a little choked up but forced herself to respond, rattling off how she knew of gates -but not really how the combinations of words worked, how she knew the importance of opposing elements in magic -but not which spells were actually out there, she listed off the basic items she had learned how to use and what things she had learned from her first solo field experience. Of course she did not mention hacks, hackers, or hacking nor the Crimson Guard or anything of the fields she had been on. Now that she thought about it, Armina realized she had never been on a perfectly normal field with no hacks of any kind.

The more seasoned players listened intently, sometimes sharing a glance, sometimes interjecting a question to clarify Armina's knowledge on this matter or that. At last Deidre smiled & Ranger's eyes twinkled. "Oh, I think we'll like this. We might not be the best help in finding the best weapon for your class at your level, but you're sure to learn the basics thoughally."

"Ya'll ready to find a field?"


Author:  Armina [ Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:30 pm ]
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And learn she did. Not only did Armina get to follow the course of real world "days" again, being in her new friends' company but they taught her all the basics that she had missed along the way. She learned why both of "her" fields that Desmith had left to her were wood fields, and why they differed. How to see the difficulty, level, & type of field she was choosing. How to use items found, what Monsignor was and how he worked. Every little simple thing that they could think of to explain to her -which was quite a lot. She learned how to fight alone, in a small group, and in a huge group as they brought more & more of their friends into some of their outings. This proved a double boon, for it helped her to better hone her "gift" in more useful ways even without letting anyone know of its existence. At first these adventures scared her, but it soon became clear her face was not on any poster or that she looked enough like a base that no one questioned or suspected her. Armina even went with them to pet their grunties, though she was apprehensive about getting one for herself. They teased her a bit, but let it slide -taking her apprehension of having something to care for and not being able to suddenly as fear of the digital creatures.

They met nearly every day at the same time for a few hours or so. The LongArm looked forward to those hours the rest of the day, and took to sleeping in the quiet wood between times. It was much more comforting than the empty hideouts, though she checked those daily too. Her "gift" was progressing too, at least where her new friends were concerned. They often marveled at her ability to "read" where they needed her to be most in a fight, or coming in at exactly the right moment with a spell. It also helped with her quickness of learning, being able to "read" in their thoughts what was meant when the words themselves perhaps were not quite as clear.

Ranger reminded her so much of Trevor that her heart sometimes ached for it. Many times. Ranger was more Texan than her husband, but there was that same good ol' country boy quality to him mixed with a wonderful dose of gallantry. It frightened her sometimes. Many was the day she would lay in the woods of Beautiful Solitary Melody, looking up at the gold flecks of light filtering through the digital trees and wonder how Trevor was doing. Sometimes, her thoughts would then stray to her new friend and an incredible feeling of guilt would spring up -double for the double hurt. It was hard, with Ranger's hugs being here & available & very much needed and more than appreciated. But would he think she was leading him on? Outside of The World the player that was now Armina was a very affectionate individual who hugged and loved easily. But here... cut off from her beloved... was she walking the line of being untrue? Was she walking the line of falling for her new friend? And she would sigh, because she knew that if she had never met Trevor she would certainly fall for Ranger.

She could not argue that she did not know his real name, for she had picked it up both from him and from Deidre though she tried to keep such information buried and away from her thoughts. Likewise, she could not argue that he could be playing a character for the truth in his thoughts was clear. He was the genuine article.

If she kept this up, she was betraying them both.

Not to mention putting her new friends in very real danger. And she had to find her companions. She wondered if any of them were looking for her & sighed.

Slowly, Armina started cutting back on the time she spent with Ranger & Deidre. The shutting down of Mac Anu helped with that, not being able to meet them there. Not to mention that the towns were now crawling with guards and Armina had to focus heavily to mask herself only from their minds while still being visible & recognizable to her friends, which was very good practice but extremely draining both physically and emotionally. She suspected that it had something to do with her companions and it saddened her, but strengthened her resolve. If her hugs were a little more cling-y Armina did not notice. If her smile was a little slower, and her thoughts often far away she did not notice either. She kept her thoughts closed from her new friends, and theirs from her. Deidre would sometimes give the LongArm a curious, almost speculating gaze when she was lost in her own thoughts; Ranger, confused and torn.

The three walked a field together after clearing the dungeon, just enjoying the scenery. The female WaveMistress elbowed his best friend as Armina's gaze grew distant and followed the field's sun. "Well, I've gotta get going guys. Enjoy the scenery." Armina turned, smiled & nodded with a jaunty wave and watched as Deidre disbanded the group and gated away. Sometimes they broke up like that, one leaving before the other, some staying behind to enjoy the beauty of the game's graphics.

She did not notice when the HeavyAxe came up beside her, only felt the comforting presence of his concerned thoughts and was not afraid. " 'Mina..." Ranger started his voice thick with emotion and not being certain how to start. He sighed heavily, standing his axe before him and leaning on it as his gaze followed hers. "It's a beautiful field."

"Yes. Very beautiful. Just like the game box promised." His eyes turned to her then, but Armina's gaze did not waver. She sighed heavily. "I should look for my friends. Maybe on one of these other servers you & Deidre have told me about. They're not likely to come back to Mac Anu or even Dun Loireag after..."

"After the shutdown? But it's fine now. But you've not been. Ya've been growing distant ever since it happened. 'Mina... what's bothering you? Do ya know something that we don't about what happened there?" His accent was heavy, probably due to the emotions rolling within him.

Know? No. Suspect? Heard bits and pieces that lead to only one thought: that my companions were in a battle before the shutdown, that that's why it was shut down? Yes. But know?... no. no, dear Ranger, know I don't. In shame she shook her head. "No. No I don't. Nothing I know, really."

Now she could feel the HeavyAxe's studying gaze upon her, knew he was deciphering the play of emotions upon her face. She felt him take her hand and turned frightened blue eyes upon him, her gaze meeting his and seeing the tenderness within. Her heart cried. "But it frightened ya, 'Mina. I wish I knew why. Don't ya trust me?"

She could not move, other than to nod. She knew she should, as his other hand reached up to cradle her face like a scene in one of her movies. Armina could feel his nervousness as he stepped to her, his axe falling to the grass at their feet with a soft thud. It seemed to happen quickly and in slow motion all at once. Still, Armina felt her eyes close automatically as his lips descended on hers.

Why she kissed him back she could not later say, but she did as tears fell from her closed eyes through her lashes. "Ranger..." She murmured softly, pulling away. "I can't. This isn't right. I..." I'm married. I love him. I'm stuck in this game. I don't want to hurt you. But the words caught in her throat as his thumb stroked her cheek and Ranger brushed her tears lovingly away. Big blue eyes pleaded silently with him but she would not resort to her inner mental voice just yet.

"I can. I'll find ya, 'Mina." She gave a strangled sob at his words, shaking her head. "No, Ranger. You mustn't there's things you don't know... things you should know... things I should tell you, and others I can't..."

"Or shouldn't." When did his hand get into her short auburn locks? She felt his thumb slip under the bandana Gingitsune had given her to hide her ears and her eyes flashed wide in terror. She mouthed a silent "no" as Ranger pulled it off, burying her face in her hands to not see his reaction as her furred cat's ears were uncovered. But she could feel it. His shock.

"Ya're a hacker?" His voice was incredulous, remembering clearly how little she had known of the World when he met her and Armina shook her head. "No... but I have them. It sort of ... happened. I didn't ask for them. I didn't ask for any of this. I just wanted to escape for a little while... It's part of what I shouldn't tell you." She pulled away, letting Ranger keep the bandana in his hands and sat down with her back to him in the grass at their feet.

The HeavyAxe stared at the bandana in his hands and Armina could hear his thoughts debate asking the questions that darted through his mind like slippery silver fishes. She knew she would answer them if asked -Ranger deserved the truth from her. But she found herself unable to offer the information. With no thoughts to clue her in to his actions Ranger sat beside the LongArm, their arms only lightly brushing near the shoulder. "How...?"

"Did it happen? I'm not sure, really. I bought the game, made a character and started playing and the ears were there. This was right after the General fought in Mac Anu. Those I met suspected my character files were touched in creation or start-up by the hacker's presence."

"And the friends ya've been looking for, they're hackers." "Maybe. I suppose most must be. But not to hurt anyone. Not like those that we're up against." If it was anyone else, Armina would have been surprised to not be turned in by now. But there were good reasons she was falling for her friend. She almost wished he would though. It would make things easier. Even if it killed her. She started to cry again.

"There now, pretty gal. No wonder ya've been a wreck since the shutdown, suspecting yar friends were a part." His arm went around her and Armina could not help but cry into his shoulder though she knew she should not. It just felt so good to be held. It did not help that Ranger was being so understanding. "Not to mention the guards out all over. No wonder ya've only wanted to meet us in towns and never go back with us after a field anymore." Yes, Ranger was brighter than his accent might lead others to believe and he was observant too. Now that pieces were falling together, some things made more sense, even if he had not really thought of them before. "So ya've been running from hackers and admins since ya've started playing. No wonder ya knew no basics." His accent was very thick now. "I can see why ya shouldn't tell of that. Dei & Ah've been around, so we've an inkling of such things, if only suspectin'." But the LongArm could tell by his thoughts that Ranger & Deidre did not suspect the half of the situation. "But what of the part ya should tell?" He whispered into her ear.

Armina felt her heart breaking. Trevor, I'm sorry! I'm sorry for you, I'm sorry for him, and I'm sorry for getting us all into this situation! "I'm married." She confessed.

His arms tightened around her and she felt his hurt. Felt his hurt and heard the choked laugh of his thoughts. Of course she'd be married. Why wouldn't a sweet and wonderful gal like her be married already? Still he rocked her close, and she felt his unwillingness to let her go. "Happily?"

Truth? "Mostly. It... it's hard sometimes but..." "But the love is still there." Armina nodded.

"I only meant to be friends..." She could feel the jumble of his thoughts and had to shield most of them to be able to deal anywhere near sensibly with her own.

"And what does he think of ya having guy friends in The World?" Ah, where the should and the shouldn't tell overlapped. Maybe she could keep it to the one. She shook her head. "He doesn't know. Most of my friends back home are guys though, so I doubt he'd mind. Of course I never..." fell in love with anyone since him before.

"Kissed any of them?" Ranger filled in, a strange sound coming from his chest like a huff. A sheepish smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. That too. Armina knew if there had not been her attraction to him there would not have been the kiss so it was nearly the same. "That too."

She could hear him debating again and had to block. "Why've ya not told him of us?"

Could she keep the dangerous truth from him if he continued to ask? "I've not been able to see him in a very long time." "Not been able to?" Tears falling down her face she nodded. "What... what stops you?"

Moving her hand up the length of her spear the LongArm pierced the flesh of her hand, causing blood to spring up. Ranger gaped. "You... bleed. And there's no fight. That shouldn't happen." He touched the blood, not wanting to believe. "But how does that..."

"Answer the question? It doesn't I suppose. It was just the first sign. That, and feeling fully the temperatures of fields we visited. It... wasn't until we tried to log out that we found we were stuck."

He was taking this rather well, surprisingly. Armina could feel the shifting of gears in his mind even while trying to tune his thoughts out. "Ya can't log out? But what of your body?"

Why was he still holding her, and why was she not leaving his arms? Armina shrugged. "I don't know, coma?" She forced herself to pull away. "Look, I shouldn't be telling you anything. I don't understand & I know even less. I lost count of the days long before I was separated from the others, stuck in this game like me. I lost track of them again between then and when I first met you. It's been wonderful being with you, being able to enjoy the World as a normal player... but I can't continue like this. I have to find the others, help them if I can. Or..." but she could not say it.

"What happens to you in the real world if ya die hear, 'Mina?" You ask the hardest things to tell... "I die." Came her whispered reply.

"No!" Suddenly she was back in his arms and though she struggled with all her strength the HeavyAxe outmatched her there and she could not escape. Armina could hear the tears in his mind, knew that wherever he played he was crying. "No! 'Mina, stay with me! I'll keep you alive! If you're going to be fighting hackers it's too dangerous! Just ya forget about it, okay?"

"I can't!" She shook her head vehemently against his chest, feeling the cool metal of his armor beneath her cheek. "I've already put you in danger long enough with my selfishness! I shouldn't have let myself get enamored with the game at this point! I shouldn't have let myself get enamored with you!"

Gasping at what she said the petite LongArm put her hands to her open mouth and pulled away sharply. Ranger was stunned enough to let her. She could feel the flutter of hope & joy from within him. As well as the pain of knowing in more ways than one he would have to let her go. But not yet. He drew her back into his arms and nuzzled the top of her head and her wild auburn tresses. "Are ya saying ya love me too?"

"I could love you..." Armina admitted in a choked whisper, sitting perfectly still. I can love you as much as I'm able...

"That's more than I could ask ya." She felt his lips on her head and knew she had spoken into his mind and felt guilty for having done so. I wonder, 'Mina, if things were different... if you weren't married and this husband an' I were both courting you... "I'd be hard pressed to choose between you." Armina murmured softly, tears stuck to her lashes.

Then she cringed, realizing she had answered an unvoiced question and shifted enough to look up at Ranger nervously. He looked confused, but also relieved and contemplative. "Don't tell me... a hack to read minds."

She nodded morosely. "A gift from an old friend before he left. I ... always wanted to be a telepath." The last was almost sheepish, and Armina attempted one of her endearing and happy smiles.

"All 'round a case of being careful what ya wish fer." If she was single she would have kissed him to try and draw the hurt she felt in Ranger from him. It did not help knowing she was the cause. "I'm sorry, Ranger. I never meant to..." "Lead me on?" She looked up at him, shocked, and he laughed. "No telepathy needed for that, pretty gal. And ya didn't, so quit yar frettin' over that. Ya never once hinted at anythin' other than friendship. I'm tha' one that took a gamble blind. The players & the stakes were a bit different than I imagined... but perhaps I gained more than I lost."

His large hands stroked her hair tender & thoughtful. "Under the circumstances... it's enough to know ya could have loved me." She knew he watched the unmoving sun then. Armina did not know what else to do or say so did neither, letting her friend call the shots if & when he did. It could have been hours they sat like that. At some point Ranger pulled her into his lap, still silently holding her and she did not resist. He rested his chin on her head where it leaned against his chest. She knew neither of them paid any attention to the passing of time.

At long last he spoke again. "What's he like?" She did not need to ask who. "Much like you. Kind, strong, thoughtful, caring. Country roots." Ranger laughed. "See that, can ya?" "Think Ah can't hear eet, shugah?" Armina laughed, mimicking his Western accent with an added bit of Southern twang that was her tendency. "But to the other, I feel space, hard, good work, & an honest upbringing." Ranger nodded, letting the idea sink in, seeing how she was right. "Can you read my thoughts, right now?" "I'm trying not to." He chuckled softly, nuzzling her hair -trying to keep one memory. "That's good. Ya probably wouldn't approve."

"Don't find me. Don't look. Please." She laughed feeling his reaction. "No telepathy needed for that, Ranger." Armina quoted teasingly. "You're the type that would, or I wouldn't....." Her voice faltered. "...have stayed when I should already be gone.

"I want to help." He said, feeling it was lame. Armina turned her big blue eyes up to look at him. "You already have. You and Deidre & your friends... you've all taught me so much. So much that could mean my survival. Or that of others stuck here like I am. And you showed me how wonderful this game really is outside of what I had come to know. You showed me that I'm not just fighting for those of us stuck here, but for those that are not but could become so, just because they want to enjoy this wonderful World created to be enjoyed."

Ranger felt moved, but... "I feel so useless." The HeavyAxe admitted, broad shoulders slumping.

Armina turned on him, her blue eyes flashing. "Don't say that! Never say that! What you & Deidre do, helping strangers for fun? It has significance! It has meaning and merit! Who knows who you helped, and where they are now? Who knows who you'll help tomorrow? Your one good deed today could spawn countless good deeds tomorrow, in and out of The World... so don't even think you're useless!"

For some reason, that made him laugh and Armina had to "peek" to see that he found humor in that if anyone knew what he was thinking -with or without telepathy- it would be her. Soon she was laughing too. "Awwll right, 'Mina." He dragged the "all" out thick with accent & feeling. I won't think it, since ya said so." Her mouth opened to protest, hearing what he would not agree to and Ranger put a finger over it to still her words. "I can't promise the other. Ya'd not chain me with words would ya?" She shook her head while at the same time wishing she could -if it meant keeping those she cared for safe. But those chains would break him, and Armina would not do that to him. "Naaw that doesn't mean I'm gonna logout and spend every cent Ah've to find ya and barge in on yar man to see ya either. Just that I can't promise to stay away from any clues on this, and it might lead me to ya." Ranger brought his thumb to her face & lightly stroked her cheek. "Ah can't have ya 'cause ya belong to another, but I can still do what I can to help ya and maybe get ya back to him. No sense both of us achin' fer ya." He had to wipe the tears from her eyes again then as Armina could not keep them back.

It was a choked whisper that continued. "Will I at least see ya again?"

"No." But her head shook yes and such a forlorn look overcame her that Armina slipped into telepathy to explain. I'd want to, but I shouldn't. Especially if I find the others. I don't want you tagged for being a friend. You or Deidre. And if we're off... well even if I wanted to meet you I might not always be able to do so. This has been a wonderful dream but I need to wake up. Yes. You do. His thoughts were still spinning from the images of her sending, how she saw both him & Deidre as both their game selves & their real selves at once, getting a faint taste of things she had undergone with her group -primarily the sense of a gladiator ring and her last fight with the Crimson Guard. He knew Armina's course was wise but... "I'll be on the same times I always have. We might be changing servers, so I might miss ya anyway... but if we're in the same root town, at the same time... if you see me or sense me or whatever it is you can do at the time... just don't ignore me. Or us, If Dei's there. Even if it's just a "hi" in my head, do that much for me?" His pleading eyes melted her heart and she nodded, just once.

"And if you can... a hug? You give the best hugs." She could see in his mind the first impromptu hug she had given him the day they met and threw her arms around his neck to hug him tightly. "When I can & just as random." She whispered fiercely, a smile starting to light her eyes.

Laughing he hugged her back, lifting her up as he stood. "I know ya, 'Mina. Ya'll dry those tears of yars, find yar friends and fill their lives with the sunshine of yar smile & optimism." His eyes laughed for a moment before showing the sorrow beneath. "I envy 'em that. But they need ya."

She did not want to leave, knowing that it would be the end of what had been a nearly idyllic few weeks. But as Ranger set her on her booted feet she knew this charade of being a normal player was over forever. Ever so carefully he took her bandana and tied it back around her head to cover her ears, tucking a few wild strands of auburn hair underneath with a gentleness that seemed beyond the HeavyAxe's ability for his size. Taking a deep breath Armina lifted on her toes and kissed him deeply. She could feel the shock, surprise, joy, and other feelings that sparked in her friend even as his arms crushed around her and he returned her affections. to hold and remember... She pulled back, knowing her eyes were as bright as his and feeling a little breathless. Armina clamped down her thought that it could possibly be her last kiss ever, but he seemed to catch onto it anyway though he said nothing. "Thanks."

Kissing her forehead Ranger released her and bent to pick up his axe where it had dropped. "Tell Deidre goodbye for me, if I don't..." "We'll be seeing ya again, Armina. Somehow or another." He saluted her as he began to gate. "I'll tell him what I need to, but we'll be seeing ya."

Her smile was bright but sad as Ranger gated out. Bittersweet, but sweet none-the-less.

Now to really find her friends. Maybe one of those new servers.

((and that can be.... The End

High Ones, but I'm a sap. *laughs*))

Author:  Nighthand [ Tue Mar 27, 2007 8:29 pm ]
Post subject: 

Armina --> +3 Levels, + Dhampir Lance, +2000 GP

To join in the Main quest you'll have to get "keyed" to the new hideout in Lambda. You can talk to someone who's already a member and keyed (I believe Canti, Lighteria, and Senna are doing something in Mac Anu about now, you could run into them if you wanted to talk to them about it) Or Flashmail someone else to get in, like Nighthand. Or talk to me about it and we can work something out.

Welcome back. ^_^

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